Summer 2017

Its been awhile since I have been able to write up a post. I spent most of June up in Michigan for work. luckily we were able to sneak away most evenings and on weekends to do a little fishing. I spent the most of the trip throwing large pike flies for toothy critters but only caught a few small to mid sized fish. we saw plenty of the big ones as they chased flies and lures back to the boat but we couldn’t connect with them. I tried the figure 8 and the L with no luck.

I did catch several nice small mouth that were not afraid to eat 7 inch long flies. We got into a few big large mouth as well. All in all it was a good trip, especially since I was being paid to be there.

After Michigan I headed up to the North Shore of Minnesota near Grand Marais with the wife and kids. We had a great vacation with our extended family that we don’t get to see that often. We started the week off right with a chartered trip out on Lake Superior. We caught a bunch of nice lake trout and Chris caught one salmon.

I was able to get away and fish the streams every morning we were there. If you haven’t been up there, I suggest you check it out. Its a simple mater of driving the national forest roads until you cross a creek. You get out and catch brook trout. I have to imagine that this is what the guys in Colorado feel like, all you have to do is  find water and it will have trout in it.

We caught brookies from 3-12 inches long. My best flies were the pink grass hopper and the black beetle. we got a heavy rain over night so I spent the next morning fishing a San Juan worm under an indicator. Not nearly as much fun but it was crazy effective. My best fish was a 12 inch long brook that was holding in a back eddy along a fallen log, he hammered the hopper and ran down the rapids like Salmon. I’m sure my buddy Travis was getting a kick out of watching me get run around like I had a shark on the end of my line. I was finally able to get her into some slack water about 20 yards down stream. I didn’t bother taking a picture partly because I’m sure the fish was exhausted and I didn’t want to stress her any further. And partly because you should remember fish like that the way you remember them, not necessarily how they really were.

I can’t get over how beautiful theses little fish are. They are so much darker than the ones I am used to seeing in Iowa, of course they are also all wild.

The best part is, we get to do it all again next year.



2017 Mother’s Day caddis hatch

Every year a group of friends and I  are lucky enough to spend a week in the Driftless fishing the Mother’s day caddis hatch. Its a hatch that is well known in the west but doesn’t get as much attention around here. If you happen to be there on the right day you will be amazed by the number of rising fish. Besides that, its hard to beat good friends, cold beer and a week in bluff country.

We hit it a bit early this year but we got into some great fishing. Typically I expect to be fishing mostly dry and emerger patterns hung in the surface film, this year was a little bit different. We got some heavy rain and the streams were a bit high and off color.  I saw the occasional rising fish, and the bugs were coming off, but not in the numbers I am used to seeing. We had to use plan B. Mop flies, pink worms and eggs worked well in the stained water. The Holy grail caddis emerger and Guides choice in the clear water. I tie both of these flies with a bead heads and some lead wire. Fishing deep was the name of the game for this trip. We found that we often times we still needed to use split shot (something I dread doing) to get the flies down to the fish. I did manage to catch a few fish on a soft hackle fished upstream in the film but I only tied a dry on once or twice the whole week. Sometimes its good to get a reminder that mother nature always wins and you cant change the weather.

At any rate the streams look good after a 2016s heavy flooding. A lot of them were starting to silt in and the increased flow last year really scoured them out. I saw more rock and gravel on the bottom of Paint creek than I ever remember seeing before. With the amount of natural reproduction occurring in that stream I am excited to see what happens over the next few years.

Iowa Driftless Chapter Trout Unlimited

Another great event is in the books. The Iowa Driftless Chapter of Trout Unlimited had their fundraiser over the weekend in Decorah. Its a great group of people doing great work for Iowa’s cold water streams. My wife decided that we needed to buy a Nome on the silent auction. I guess we will have our own traveling Stanley to take along on all of the fishing adventures for the year. If you didn’t make this year I hope to see you next time.

Bike Fishing

Being a person with such a simple mind affords me the ability to find over whelming joy in the simplest of things. I enjoy bike fishing so much partly because a true addict always finds a way to get their fix and partly because this is how it all started for me.

When I got my first fly rod, I was still years away from getting my driver license. My Dad would let me jump on my bike and ride to the ponds in town to chase panfish and bass. I had no idea what I was doing but every now and then I would catch a fish and that was good enough for me.

When I started having health problems a few years back, the doctors wouldn’t let me drive a car. Not fishing was not an option in my opinion so back to the bike I went. I am very lucky to live in a town that has almost endless fly fishing opportunities within a short bike rides distance from my house. If I start feeling ambitious I can ride to the bigger lakes north of town or down to the river. Iowa in general is very bike friendly, we have lots of trails. This is a state that you can literally ride across, and lots of people do every summer, if you feel like it.

This opens up a lot of options for anglers who like to travel by bike. Its no secret that most people are not willing to walk very far from their car to get to a fishing spot. I like to capitalize on this weather I’m on foot or on my bike. We have trails that follow the river, go thru green spaces, parks and along streams. Its not hard to find yourself a over looked spot that turns out to be a real gold mine. I have found some areas that you are notlegally allowed to drive a car into but have trails 20 feet from the water.

Bike fishing is not confined to urban areas of the state. If you think about it, most of our longer trout streams have access roads along side of them. With the growing popularity of fat bikes, it wont be long before you start seeing more people take advantage of these trails. Just make sure you are on the state owned land or have permission from the landowner to be riding on their property. Gravel riding(yes its a real thing) is also growing in popularity. If your willing to put up with the dust you can travel from stream to stream and get a heck of a work out in.

The possibilities are endless. Anything from a leisurely stroll to a nearby pond or creek to a true off road experience or a cross state adventure. Bike fishing is fun and can be a great way to find some new water. This is easily combined with bike camping but that’s another post for another day.

You can use any bike really, but if your going to be getting out in the wilderness you might want to look into a bike that’s made to handle it. A road bike does not handle well on mud and sand. As far as hauling your gear you can go as simple as a back pack or as far as a trailer with lots of room in between. I have used home made bike mounted rod holders but at the current time I use either a cargo rack on my back fender or a bike trailer that my neighbor was going to throw away, not because it didn’t work but because he didn’t use very often.  Check google or Pintrest and you can find all the options in the world. Fly fishing, spin fishing or bait fishing, pick your poison.

If you are in the Des Moines area stop down at the Des Moines Bike Collective. They sell recycled bikes at good prices and have new inventory daily. Get out and fish, get some exercise and lower carbon emissions all at the same time.

Driftless trout 4/4/17

What a day to be fishing. We finally had a day without rain and took a trip up to N.E. Iowa for some fishing.  It’s always nice to get to the stream and find rising fish. I started the day fishing a size 16 Comparadun tied with rusty brown dubbing hoping that the Hendricksons would be hatching. I got a couple of takes but the fish quickly changed their minds. I picked up several stocked fish using a pink squirrel but my fishing buddy Bob was catching all of his on a BWO emerger.  As the day went on we saw more and more Blue winged olives on the water and the fish started rising again. I ended up switching over to a size 20 BWO dun and that trick. We both manage to hit the grand slam and catch all three species but the majority of the fish we caught were wild browns. The spring hatches are on in full force, get out and fish!

Johnny Cash and junk food

Well junk food for trout anyway. My plans to be out fishing today didn’t pan out so back to the tying bench I went. I am preparing for some upcoming trips to the Iowa driftless area and needed to get some flies done. Of course I plan on throwing dry flies to rising trout, the Hendrickson’s should be hatching in a week or two, but spring fishing in Iowa is sometimes a gamble.

This is March, We could have a snowstorm, rain or sunshine. Maybe all three within 24 hours. The temps can raise or drop by 30 degrees without much warning and put the trout in a funk. Such is life in the driftless. So you need to have a plan B. If you show up on the stream and find high, fast, dirty water and your not prepared to deal with it, you just wasted your gas money. I live three hours from trout country so that adds up. I have learned to always have a fly box full of junk food. Squirmy worms, pickle flies, eggs, rubber legs, mop flies and the like. The stuff I often refer to as clown flies. I can use some split shot to get them deep and get a fish to eat. In other words, they often save the day.

It might not be my favorite way of fishing but at the same time I don’t turn my nose up at it. I learned a long time ago that I can get skunked and still have a great day on the water but lets face it, everyone likes to catch fish, or we probably wouldn’t be doing this. So if I have to tie on a mop and glow to get the job done, its happening. Fortunately for me Iowa has some tremendous spring dry fly fishing and odds are that we will get to catch some fish who are looking up, but i’ll be ready if the weather turns.

So for today, I will crank up the Johnny Cash and let the egg yarn roll.  I’ll get  back to tying dry flies tomorrow, and I promise to only fish them up stream on a bamboo rod.

Modern nymphing

So here is the first of a couple of product reviews that I have in the works.

I first caught wind of a DVD on modern nymphing DVD coming out while surfing Facebook. Over the past 5 or 6 years I have gotten more and more into European style nymphing, once I figured how effective it was I was hooked(pun intended).

When I saw that the DVD was going to feature Devin Olsen and Lance Egan I knew I had to have it. Both Devin and Lance have been on team USA and although I am not a competition angler it is something that I follow to some extent.  I mostly just like to steal tips trick and flies from the comp world to enhance my own fishing.

So to start with I was a little put off by the price. $29.99 isn’t really over the top for an instructional DVD but I’m a cheap bastard. So I asked my wife to buy it for me as a birthday gift, that somehow makes it easier to swallow. Let me say, this DVD is well worth the price of admission. It is very well put together. Everything from the camera work to the editing not to mention the wealth of knowledge shared was top notch. When it comes to European nymphing there are about 10,000 leader formulas but I though the ones that Lance and Devin shared made sense. They discuss a variety of methods and talk about the gear and flies they like to use.

This project was filmed and edited by Gilbert Rowley, I think he really knocked it out of the ball park. I was impressed to say the least and am looking forward to seeing more of his work. The DVD is accompanied by a list of both Devin and Lance’s favorite patterns. I did a quick YouTube search and was able to find videos for most of the patterns, its always easier for me to watch someone tie a fly and then do it myself than it is to read a recipe.

Another great thing about this video is that they show an array of presentation situations that you are likely to encounter on the stream. Again with me being a visual learner I found this to be very helpful. All in all I would certainly recommend this DVD to any one who has an interet in European Nymphing techniques. You don’t have to be a competition angler to benefit from the tips shared here.

If you are interested in learning more, swing over to In addition to the DVD they also have a great selection of fly tying materials and gear.

Utah Killer Bug

So things have been quiet around here. I have been full steam ahead on some work for Trout Unlimited but we will talk more about those projects later. The warm weather has kept me away from sitting at the vice as much as I normally do in the winter so I am behind on fly tying.

The Utah killer bug is a fly that I came across a few years back. The first time I ever fished the fly I knew that it was going into my box of “go to” flies. It falls into what I call the guide fly category, quick and simple to tie and catches fish like its getting paid to do so.

The fly really only consists of one material, a hook and some thread. Some tie it with copper or colored wire and skip the thread all together. You can of course trick it out with beads, wire ribbing, legs, tails or whatever else you want to add but this is how I tie it. The hardest part about tying the fly is finding the body material. The yarn is Jamison Shetland spindrift yarn and the color is oyster. I’m sure if you search Google you can locate it but I get mine from Chris Stewart over at Tenkarabum. It is largely used as a tenkara fly but works just as well fished in a euro nymphing set up or with an indicator rig.

I have always thought of this fly as a scud or sowbug but I have heard people call it a crane fly larva. Whatever it is it works. I tie mine with pink thread or wire for the most part but also use orange and copper. They all seem to work but pink really does the trick in winter and throughout the spring.

Just attach the yarn to the body, spin it a few times to tighten it up and then wrap down the hook and back up to where you want to tie it off. After you tie a few, you should be able to knock them out in about 45 seconds. If you use thread as opposed to wire I would recommend adding some lead free wire to the hook shank for weight. Once the fly is wet you can see how it has a glow to it. The fish have a hard time leaving it alone.

For a hook you can use what ever you have, I tie mine on Daiichi 1130 curved shank hooks in sizes 12 and 14. As you can see in the above pictured I sometimes tie the thread farther down the hook shank than the yarn to leave a bright tag as a hotspot. Tie a few up and give them a shot, I’m sure that they will have a Permanente spot in your fly box.


Fly tying season

The fly tying season is in full swing. This is the time of year that I always find myself saying, man I am really far behind on tying flies. It seems like I always have an endless list of nymphs, wets and dries that I feel like I have to get done, but in reality I will fish the same 10 or so patterns that I always do.

But I also like to spend some time filing up my other fly boxes. There are a lot of empty rows in my bass fly box for instance that need some attention before the ice melts.

The bass fishing in Ankeny is good and has been getting better every year. There are several groups like H.F.F.A., the Central Iowa Anglers and the Ankeny Optimists club who have been working hard to improve the fishing.

The fly pictured above has become a go to fly for me for bass in my local ponds. Its a simple Fish mask wooly bugger with a little bit of flash and some rubber legs. I don’t fuss to much over getting them tied perfectly. I just make sure to have a variety of colors and sizes in case the fish get finicky. One think to remember when it comes to choosing a fly pattern is that these fish get a lot of pressure. Going with a natural imitation of a bluegill works fine in the spring but after half the fish in the pond have been hooked and released on a Spook in bluegill colors they tend to shy away from them.

By late spring I start switching to off the wall colors and profiles. I personally think that Fishin Dave’s Block Head Popper is so successful in part because the fish don’t see that profile of a bait every day. And its a darn good impression of a frog.

Pay attention not only to forage foods in the pond but also to what every one is throwing at the bass. I have had good success by simply asking other anglers what they are fishing with and then using something completely different. It doesn’t always work but its worth a shot when you can’t  buy a bite. And don’t be afraid to go big. I have seen some bass in the local parks that are crazy big. I don’t think a fish gets over 6lbs by eating grass hoppers alone.

One of the fun things about living so close to great bass fishing is that I can get away with tying some bass flies that also double over as trout and pike streamers. What most people would consider as way to big of fly to throw at trout works well for all three species. Again, don’t be afraid to go big.


Here’s to a new year

The sun sets over the trout stream into a new year. 2016 was an interesting year for me to say the least. I suffered from some major health issues that kept me off work for a large part of the year, kind of a bummer but I got to do a ton of fishing.  Thanks to Old Man Tom and Bob from TU for coming to pick me up and take me fishing while I was stuck at home recovering.

Trout, Salmon, Carp, Bass, Panfish, Pike,  I even got a follow from a musky. I learned that I can if fact get to most of my favorite fishing spots in town by bike. I fished Iowa trout streams that I hadn’t visited since high school. And I finally got to do some exploring on the trout streams of south east Minnesota. Its was great to make new friends and fish with old ones.

2016 wasn’t all about the fishing. I got to spend a lot more time with my wife and kids (something I have not done enough of the past few years). And I got the opportunity to do some great volunteer work within the fly fishing community. Some highlights for year were teaching Fly Fishing 101 and fly tying classes, Getting to work with Trout Unlimited, Hawkeye Fly Fishers, Project Healing water and Casting for Recovery to name a few. One of the coolest things about getting involved with these groups is the people you meet.

As 2017 looms on the horizon, the fly tying and rod building seasons are in full swing. Time to restock the fly boxes, repair gear, pour over the maps and plan adventures for the coming year.

I have decided to take a new position at work that will allow me to have more time both at home and on the water. I’m looking forward to a year full of camping, fishing, collecting fossils and relics, working in the garden, spending time with family and friends and all of the other fun stuff.

I hope you all have a great new year and tight lines!